Speech by Sir Gustav Nossal at a Function in Support of the Human Variome Project hosted by the Governor of Victoria
It’s wonderful to see so many of you here to support the Human Variome Project. Let me tell you why I have been a strong advocate from the beginning. The Human Genome Project, completed half a century after Watson and Cricks discovery of DNA, signalled a new era in medical research. We now had a roadmap of all the genes and thus of all the proteins that make all function in health and disease. Moreover the information was freely available to any investigator anywhere in the world. However, one major piece of the jigsaw puzzle was missing. We are all interested in what makes up a person – but we’re even more interested in what makes people different. That’s on of the reasons we’re all so fascinated by identical twins we marvel at the likeness. Well the reasons for differences between people are mutations in the genes. That’s why we need to study mutations. We have to detect mutations and curate the information and correlate what we have found with disease processes, particularly genetic diseases. We need to disseminate what we have learnt throughout the medical and scientific community. To avoid people all over the world wastefully re-inventing the wheel, we need a central registry of all this information, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Human Genome Project as an equal partner and equally and freely accessible. In other words, we need the Human Variome Project. This is not just an academic exercise. When we know what gene has gone wrong in a disease we can soon find and study the relevant protein and possibly devise a prophylactic approach, or even a cure.
Well then, why Dick Cotton? Simply put, he is the most imaginative and productive scientist in the world in the field of mutation detection. He is in command of every aspect, every nuance and saw the need for a global project firs of all. He was has the backing of UNESCO, of the World Health Organisation and of most of the international experts in human genetics and genomics. He has a well developed and articulate plan of modest cost.
And why Melbourne? Few cities are as well placed to host this enterprise. Wee have a plenitude of extraordinary medical research institutes and universities. We have a first class position in bio-informatics. We have a remarkable Children’s Hospital and clinical genetics service. We have the Australian Synchrotron to guide the pathway from protein to therapeutics. We have an amazing $100Milllion new supercomputer. We are planning one of the great comprehensive cancer centres of the world. We have a small but thrusting and growing bio-technology industry. Typically for Australia, all these elements and sectors are brilliantly networked internationally in a friendly, non-threatening way.
Dick Cotton is the man, Melbourne is the place, now is the time. Let’s make the Human Variome Project happen, for the benefit of all humanity.